News From The North #2

Welcome to the second edition of News From The North! This is your destination for updates on the NFC North, released the first and third Saturday of every month. This report includes game recaps, roster moves, coaching changes, injury reports, pregame analysis and more.

Since our last report (which can be found here), the 2018 season has ended for three of the teams in our division. Only the division champion Chicago Bears have made it to the playoffs, where they are the #3 seed in the NFC. Week 17 poised all four teams in divisional matchups, one game featuring serious playoff implications and one game….well, without them.


The Minnesota Vikings (8-7-1):

Mike Zimmer, 62, has completed his fifth season as the Vikings head coach, and after 80 games his record stands at 47-32-1, or a .594 winning percentage. Zimmer’s only losing season with the team was in 2014, where the Vikings finished 7-9 for third place in the NFC North. His other four seasons have alternated between double digit wins and barely breaking even. Minnesota has made the playoffs twice in his tenure, winning one of three playoff games. Their NFC Championship Game appearance in 2018 was the first time the team reached the conference round since 2009 when Brett Favre was the starting quarterback.

This season marks the second time the Vikings have finished with an 8-7-1 record. The previous time was in 1978 where Hall of Fame head coach Bud Grant led quarterback Fran Tarkenton in his final season. Tarkenton, also a Hall of Famer, had career single-season highs in completions, attempts, and passing yards that year, and finished the season with 25 touchdowns.

Game Recap

This game was do-or-die for Minnesota, and despite the team’s best efforts they could not overcome the Bears defense, and thus were knocked out of the playoffs. This loss gives the Vikings their first streak of back to back losses against Chicago since 2012, where they lost six consecutive meetings beginning in Week 16 of 2009. The offense could not sustain drives and were snuffed out by the Bear’s brick wall defense on nearly every play. The game ended 24-10 Chicago.

In passing, Commander Cousins connected with a receiver on 20/33 passes for 132 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, and 4 sacks/31 yards. With an overall QBR of 79.4, Cousins was kept to a career low in passing yards as a starter. Kirk was the only quarterback to throw the ball for Minnesota this season. Backups Trevor Siemian and Kyle Sloter will have to wait until next fall for a chance to see the field again during the regular season, or in Sloter’s case for the first time.

In receiving, Stefon Diggs had 8 catches for 47 yards and 1 touchdown. This game gave Diggs several new single-season career highs, including 102 receptions (first season over 100), 1021 receiving yards (first over 1000), and 9 touchdowns. Diggs also had a career high in targets this season, 149, and his longest reception at 75 yards.

In rushing, Dalvin Cook improved his performance from the last meeting with Chicago. In that game Cook had 9 rushing attempts for 12 yards. The Bears defense is still number one in rushing yards and touchdowns allowed, so Cook once again was unable to run into the red zone. He ended the day with 11 carries for a meager 39 rushing yards.

In kicking, Beetle Bailey made both the field goal and an extra point for Minnesota. Bailey finishes the season with a field goal percentage of 75%, tying his percentage last year with Dallas, and only one missed extra point making all other 30 attempts. Matt Wile had 5 punts for 257 yards, bringing his season total punt yardage to 3255, the 10th highest total in the league. Only one of his 72 punts was blocked this year.

Roster Moves/Coaching Changes

The following players were signed to reserve/future contracts:

  • Jeff Badet, WR
  • Reshard Cliett, LB
  • Curtis Cothran, DT
  • Cornelius Edison, C
  • Cole Hikutini, TE
  • Jalen Myrick, CB
  • Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE
  • Roc Thomas, RB
  • Adam Bisnowaty, OT
  • Storm Norton, OT

The Vikings coaching staff could get shaken up in the coming weeks. While head coach Mike Zimmer still has a year remaining on his contract, interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski’s contract will expire on January 8. Stefanski is currently being considered for the OC position full-time, and there are reports that Zimmer’s longtime friend Hue Jackson is being considered for the position as well. Before becoming head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2016, Jackson coached various offensive line components, and served as offensive coordinator for several years with different teams. His entire coaching history can be viewed here. Ironically, Stefanski has interviewed with the Browns for their vacant head coach position.

The Vikes current defensive coordinator George Edwards may also be on the move, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have named him as a candidate for head coach.

Lastly, Minnesota is set to negotiate a new contract with special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. Priefer has served in the role since 2011.

Up Next

Since the Vikings lost, and the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Washington Redskins in a shutout 24-0, Minnesota has been eliminated from postseason contention. They have finished second in the division. The 2019 NFL Draft begins on April 25th, where the Vikes will have the 18th overall pick.


The Chicago Bears (12-4):

The division champions crushed their rival Minnesota in the regular season finale, bringing them to their first 12-4 season since 1988. That team was led by Hall of Fame head coach Mike Ditka. This year’s team was led by Matt Nagy, 40, in his first year as the head coach of an NFL team. Last year Nagy served as offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, who finished first in the AFC West and then lost to Tennessee in the Wild Card round by one point, 22-21.

Game Recap

Although the Bears had already clinched the NFC North title before this game, it still carried serious playoff implications. Had they lost to Minnesota, they would be facing them again in a Wild Card rematch at Chicago. Instead, they will be facing the Philadelphia Eagles, reigning Super Bowl LII Champions. With a Los Angeles Rams loss to San Francisco, the Bears could have claimed a first-round bye, but Stan Kroenke’s recently relocated Rams won against their NFC West rival 48-32. The Bears will end the regular season with the #3 seed in the NFC.

In passing, Mitchell Trubisky was good on 18/26 attempts for 163 passing yards, 0 TD and 0 INT. Garnering a QBR of 85.9, Trubisky left the field comfortably with no sacks from the Vikings defense.

In receiving, Taylor Gabriel caught all 4 targets for 61 yards and no touchdowns. Gabriel had career single-season highs in targets, 93, receptions, 67, and receiving yards, 688.

In rushing, Jordan Howard ran the ball 21 times for 109 yards, a season high, and 2 touchdowns. Despite having career single-season lows in rushing attempts, 250, and rushing yards, 935, Howard tied his previous best for touchdowns at 9.

In kicking, Cody Parkey missed his second PAT, making him 1 for 2 on the day. Parkey made his only field goal attempt, a 42 yard kick. Punter Pat O’Donnell had 4 punts for 175 yards. Only 1 of O’Donnell’s 62 punts was blocked this season.

Roster Moves/Coaching Changes

Before the game on December 30, QB Tyler Bray was waived and outside linebacker Kyle Long was activated from Injured Reserve. On January 1 the Bears signed Bray to the practice squad and released outside linebacker Willie Beavers from the practice squad.

The Bears’ defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has been named as a candidate for the Denver Broncos head coaching job, after Denver fired head coach Vance Joseph after the team went 11-21 in his two seasons in charge. Fangio is being considered despite having no previous experience as a head coach. Fangio has decades of defensive experience, and has been the DC for Chicago since 2015.

Injury Report

  • Eddie Jackson, S, Ankle, Questionable
  • Aaron Lynch, LB, Elbow, Questionable
  • Allen Robinson, WR, Ribs, Probable
  • Taylor Gabriel, WR, Ribs, Probable
  • Anthony Miller, WR, Shoulder, Probable
  • Kyle Long, G, Ankle, Probable

Up Next

The Monsters of the Midway will be hosting the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round this Sunday afternoon at 3:40 PM CT/ 4:40 PM ET. The Bears have faced Philly only once before with Trubisky under center. That meeting occurred on November 26, 2017 ended in a blowout victory for the birds, 31-3. With Carson Wentz out for the season due to a back injury, backup quarterback Nick Foles will once again lead the Eagles in the playoffs, although he suffered a rib injury against the Washington Redskins. Foles’ passing stat line for the season (5 games) is 1413 passing yards, 7 TD, 4 INT, and 9 sacks/47 yards. Foles has a completion percentage of 72.3%, and is no stranger to deep passes, so the Bears defense will be challenged to keep him contained. The Eagles have the 28th ranked offense for rushing yards, so if Nagy’s defensive line can get some tackles on Foles, the Bears should come out on top. ESPN currently gives Chicago a 69.1% chance of winning with a spread of -6.5.


The Detroit Lions (6-10):

In Matt Patricia’s first season as an NFL head coach, the Lions finished with their worst record since 2010. Patricia, 44, spent the previous six years as defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, helping them reach the NFL title game three times and winning Super Bowls XLIX and LI. Detroit’s season did include some surprising wins, namely against Patricia’s former team and the Green Bay Packers. The Lions beat New England for the first time since Thanksgiving Day 2000, when Tom Brady was still the backup for Drew Bledsoe. That game was actually Brady’s NFL debut. He completed 1 of 3 pass attempts for 6 yards. Brady would finish with a higher QBR, 42.4, than Bledsoe, who finished with 2 interceptions and a QBR of 39.6. In their 2018 meeting Detroit beat New England 26-10.

With their win on December 30, Detroit has extended their win streak against their division rival Green Bay Packers to 4 games, stretching back to Week 9 of 2017.

Game Recap

This game had no playoff implications for either team. With incentive to lose and gain a better draft position, Detroit spoiled their own losing season by pulling off their first shutout at Lambeau since 1970.

In passing, Matthew Stafford had 20 completions on 32 attempts, 266 passing yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, and 1 sack/2 yards. The first overall pick of the 2009 draft had a QBR of 109.6, his third highest this season. Against Green Bay this season, Stafford had 449 passing yards, 4 TD, 0 INT, 4 sacks/15 yards, and an average QBR of 105.7.

In receiving, rookie Brandon Powell had over 100 receiving yards in only his fourth game as a wide receiver (served as a kick/punt returner earlier this season), finishing with 6 receptions for 103 yards. T.J. Jones got his first and only pair of touchdowns all season, finishing with 3 receptions on 4 targets for 40 yards and 2 touchdowns.

In rushing, Zach Zenner ran the ball 21 times for 93 yards and 1 touchdown.

In kicking, Matt Prater, proud owner of the NFL’s longest made field goal, pulled off a trick play passing the ball to Levine Toilolo for 8 yards and a touchdown. This is Toilolo’s only touchdown this season. Prater made all four extra points and his lone 43-yard field goal attempt. Sam Martin had four punts for 161 yards. Martin punted the ball 74 times this season, the most of any NFC North punter.

Roster Moves/Coaching Changes

The following players were signed to reserve/future contracts:

  • Connor Cook, QB
  • Mark Thompson, RB
  • Ryan Santoso, P
  • Kerwynn Williams, RB

Detroit’s offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was not offered a contract extension, and has parted ways with the team. Cooter took over as OC in 2015. Some potential candidates to replace him are:

  • Shane Waldron, passing game coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams
  • Nathaniel Hackett, former offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars
  • George Godsey, the Lions’ current QB coach
  • Kevin O’Connell, passing game coordinator for the Washington Redskins
  • Chad O’Shea, receivers coach for the New England Patriots
  • Dirk Koetter, former head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Adam Gase, former head coach for the Miami Dolphins (fired after this season)

Up Next

Finishing last in the division, Detroit will not be in the playoffs this year. The Lions will have the 8th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.


The Green Bay Packers (6-9-1):

This season has been particularly rough for Green Bay. With the fifth most points allowed in the team’s history, this is the first time the Pack has missed the playoffs in back to back years since 2006, which was Mike McCarthy’s first year as head coach for the team. Cut from the team after Week 13 this season, McCarthy is currently a candidate for HC positions across the league as Green Bay is currently searching for their next one as well.

Game Recap

Eager to break a losing streak against the Lions, Green Bay suffered their second shutout against a division rival at home in two years. Minnesota kept the Packers scoreless in Week 16 of the 2017 season, winning 16-0. Their last division rival, Chicago, shutout Green Bay in Week 1 of the 2006 season, where the Bears won 26-0.

In passing, Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion early in the game and was replaced with backup quarterback DeShone Kizer. Kizer threw for 16/35, 132 passing yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, and 2 sacks/17 yards. He finished with a QBR of 44.0.

In receiving, Marquez Valdes-Scantling had 3 receptions for 43 yards. Valdes-Scantling started 10 games this season as a rookie.

In rushing, Kizer led with 4 carries for 40 yards. Jamaal Williams and Kapri Bibbs combined for 9 carries and 6 rushing yards.

In kicking, JK Scott punted 7 times for 317 yards, finishing the season with 3176 total punting yards.

Roster Moves/Coaching Changes

No changes have been made to the roster.

Until a new head coach is selected, no other coaching changes will be made according to sources close to the team. Possible candidates to replace McCarthy include:

  • Joe Philbin, offensive coordinator/interim head coach for Green Bay
  • Brian Flores, defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots
  • Jim Caldwell, former head coach for the Detroit Lions
  • Chuck Pagano, former head coach for the Indianapolis Colts
  • Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots
  • Pete Carmichael, offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints
  • Matt LaFleur, offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans

Up Next

Finishing third in the division, Green Bay will not be in the playoffs this year. The Packers will have the 12th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.


The regular season is over, but News From The North will be coming at you all year long! Issue #3 comes out January 19. Until then, enjoy watching Chicago get beat in the playoffs and SKOL! As always, special thanks to ESPN and Pro-Football-Reference for all statistics. Follow me on Twitter @somekidadam to stay up to date on all things Vikings.